Recently, a best friend lost her beloved four-legged companion of thirteen years. I thought of how she must have felt: alone, lost, and sad. Eight-week-old Sydney had become family after my friend secured a job and then a new home, both of which she loved. Sydney was her connection to memories of being in a good place, of happiness and success, security and comfort. I thought of how, or if we still can, connect to those memories of home when we lose a bond that meant so much.
We’ve all felt loss. Whether the feeling be physical, spiritual or emotional, our loss feels as if we are without an anchor. Loneliness sets in, perhaps sadness. But throughout our daily lives, connections that have meanings surround us and can fill a void.
When L. Frank Baum’s book, The Wizard of Oz, was published in 1900, Dorothy claimed one of his most famous quotes when clicking together the heels of her ruby red heels. “There’s no place like home, and you’ll be there.”
We may not have a pair of ruby slippers to click, but we have many other ways to bring us back to that place we call home.
When I was a young girl, a birch tree grew in the corner of my front yard where I learned to connect to it in familiarity. “A gentle touch to its peeling bark was a handshake in greetings. We danced with long leafy branches connecting, hand in hand . . . I learned that my home was underfoot and in my hands,” I wrote in my memoir, Under the Birch Tree.
Eventually I lost my birch tree connection when my family moved out of our home. But when I was in the unfamiliar, feeling insecure and uncomfortable, spotting a birch tree brought my thoughts to home. I would recall my childhood: walking the circumference of my house as if marking my home with every step, hopping on my green Schwinn for a bike ride up Carlisle Avenue, reciting who lived in each house, and watching the yellow sun rest in the pink sky’s horizon on a warm summer night. These forever links bonded me to my familiar where I found comfort and felt more tethered.
You may not have a birch tree to connect you to a good place, but consider a few ordinary, common connections. Did you always eat a type of food when growing up? Consider “comfort food” as something eaten that evokes solace, to feel warmth when you are cold. Listen to music, a particular song you played in the privacy of your own teenage bedroom. You rocked and rolled, you sang while playing your guitar, or you just listened and dreamed. Hearing that song again took you back to that time in your bedroom where you had fun and laughter. Talk a walk through the woods of oaks where these trees grew in your home’s front yard.
In loss, look to connections as cues, prompting your memories made from where they were born. Memories unfold in layers, peeling away, where you will find yourself in the center of a good place.
There is some place like home and you can be there, too. I didn’t have ruby slippers, but I had a birch tree!
What are some of your connections that are home?
2 thoughts on “Do you have a pair of ruby slippers?”
Home is so many places. And it changes as I change, grow, and age. This is what I’ve come to know and understand. The only constant is change and accepting that, embracing it and celebrating it, will allow you to discover and re-discover your home. Like you, Nancy, I’ve written a memoir on this deep and complicated, yet the wonderful phenomenon of finding home.
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Hear, hear….thanks, David!